The Weimar Republic 1930 - 1933President Hindenburg greets the new Chancellor Adolf Hitler on the 30th January 1933
The Origins of the Nazi Party The small German Workers Party (DAP) was founded in Munich in 1919 by Anton Drexler, a Berlin locksmith and war veteran. Hitler encountered the Party as a political education officer in the German army investigating undesirable left-wing groups.Although the Party had left-wing anti-capitalist tendencies, it also embraced right-wing anti-Semitic and nationalistic thinking. Anton Drexler
Origins of the Nazi Party Hitler joined the Party and together with Drexler, they drew up a 25 Point Programme outlining their aims. These included revocation of the treaties of Versailles and St. Germain, the union of all Germans in a Greater Germany and the prohibition of profiteering by big business.The Party was also renamed the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) and membership increased to 3300.Hitler himself took over as leader in 1921.Even before becoming leader, Hitler had already developed much of the propaganda that would characterise the Nazi Party e.g. the salute, use of the swastika and formation of uniformed armed squads.
1921 1923 Strengthening the PartyThe armed squads were developed into organised paramilitary units led by Ernest Rohm and known as the SA (stormtroopers).A Party newspaper, Volkischer Beobachter (the Peoples Observer), was published from 1921.Hitler won the backing of Julius Streicher who gave the NSDAP publicity in his own anti-Semitic newspaper Der Sturmer.Ernst Rohm
1921-1923 Strengthening the Party Hermann Goering, the son of a Bavarian landowner and husband of a Swedish aristocrat dropped out of university and joined the SA as a commander in 1922.Many useful social contacts with powerful people were made as a result and this gave Hitler and Nazism respectability.
1923 The Munich Beer Hall PutschBy 1923, Nazi Party membership stood at 20 000 and the economic crisis of 1923 had made the Weimar government deeply unpopular with many in Germany.Inspired by Mussolinis March on Rome the previous year, Hitler decided to overthrown the federal government of Bavaria and then takeover the national government in Berlin.
On the 8th November 1923 when the Bavarian leader von Kahr was addressing a large meeting in a Munich beer hall, Hitler and the Nazis seized control.Hitler declared a national revolution, which he claimed was supported by the army and the police. Von Kahr and other Bavarian leaders were forced at gunpoint to support it.The next day Hitler and the war hero General Ludendorff marched into the city of Munich with 2000 SA to meet up with Rohm who had occupied some government buildings but the uprising was easily crushed by police.14 Nazis were killed and Hitler was arrested on a charge of treason.
Nazis barricade the War Ministry buildings in Munich 9th November 1923
February 1924 Hitler on TrialFrickLudendorffHitlerRohmThe main leaders of the Putsch before their trial
Outcome of the TrialHitler was found guilty of treason, jailed and the NSDAP were banned.HoweverThe trial brought Hitler weeks of valuable front-page publicity and was a great propaganda success. A sympathetic judiciary meant that he was allowed to interrupt and question witnesses and made speeches lasting for hours. Although jailed, Hitler was only sentenced to the minimum sentence (5 years fortress detention) and actually walked free before the end of the year.While in jail, Hitler wrote Mein Kampf which outlined his world view and was to become the bible of National Socialism.
December 1924 Release from Landsberg
1924 A Change in DirectionTen months in Landsberg allowed Hitler to consider the future of the Party.By the time of his release the future looked bleak. The Party was in disarray, membership was in decline and the atmosphere of economic crisis had subsided.Hitler therefore decided that Putschist (violent) tactics would have to be abandoned and instead the Nazis would try to win electoral support. .. we shall have to hold our noses and enter the Reichstag against the Catholic and Marxist deputies. If out-voting them takes longer than our shooting them, at least the result will be guaranteed by their own Constitution. Hitler, Landsberg 1924
Strict organisation of the Party was also deemed to be necessary. Up to 1923 Party supporters were largely from Bavaria but this geographical spread would have to be increased. A larger membership would also distinguish the Nazis from other nationalist groups. The Fuhrers will would need to dominate completely (Fuhrerprinzip) to enable the Nazis to appear united. Hitler planned only to intervene in party disputes when they had reached crisis stage and his decision would be final.1924 A Change in Direction
Hitlers World ViewBelief in a hierarchy of races (Aryans superior, Slavs and Jews inferior)All ethnic Germans should be part of Greater GermanyLebensraum (living space) in Eastern Europe would allow Germany to expand successfullyOpposition to Communism as a left wing ideology and part of the Jewish conspiracy Versailles must be overturnedOpposition to democracy and the Weimar Republic
Hitler believed in social Darwinism which maintained life was no more than the survival of the fittest.He felt it was natural that inferior Jews and Slavs were dominated by the pure Herrenvolk (the Aryan master race of northern Europe) The purity of the Aryan line had to be preserved at all costs. In Nazi Germany this led to the development of the pseudo-science of racial hygiene.Hitlers World View
Abolition of the Treaty of Versailles and the return of lost territories would lead to the creation of a new empire (Reich).However, this Reich was to be bigger than the Germany of 1914. Austrian Germans as well as those in the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia and the German communities along the Baltic coast were to be included. The German people must be assured the territorial area which is necessary for it to exist on earthPeople of the same blood should be in the same Reich. Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf
Conquest of Poland and the Soviet Union would allow Germany to obtain raw materials, cheap labour and food. This policy of Lebensraum would allow Greater Germany to compete as an equal alongside Britain and the USA on the world stage. Europes Victory is your prosperity -poster from 1941 which saw the culmination of Hitlers ambition in the East when he launched an invasion of the Soviet Union.
This New Order would not only bring about the subjugation of inferior Slavs, it would also ensure the destruction of the USSR, the centre of world communism after 1917. For Hitler, the communist beliefs of Jews like Karl Marx and Trotsky was further proof that there was a worldwide Jewish conspiracy.
Hitler also believed there was no realistic alternative to strong dictatorial government. Parliamentary democracy was weak and ineffective and at odds with Germanys military traditions.The November Criminals of the Weimar Republic had betrayed Germany by accepting the armistice and establishing democracy. Since then, Germany had lurched from one crisis to the next.Instead, a one-party state which rejected representative government and liberal values would control the masses for the common good. An individual leader (Fuhrer) should be chosen to take necessary decisions.The resulting Volksgemeinschaft (peoples community) would override divisions of class, religion and politics and encourage people to work together under a new collective national identity.
How new were Hitlers ideas?Nazism lacked coherence and was intellectually superficial and simplisticIt was merely a collection of ideas not very cleverly pieced together. (Layton 2005)Every aspect of Hitlers thinking can be found to have been voiced in nineteenth century Germany. His nationalism can be seen as an outgrowth of the fervour that led to unification in 1871.Demands for a Greater Germany had already been made after 1871 by those who felt unification had not gone far enough. Racist ideas and in particular anti-Semitism had been developing and the imperialist idea of Lebensraum had already been raised by those who saw the German race as superior.
Germany also had a strong socialist tradition during the nineteenth century.A number of other countries, notably Britain and France, also witnessed the voicing of similar nationalist and racist ideas at the same time.Anti-Semitism in Europe was centuries old. For example, in 1290 Jewish people in Britain had been expelled, only being formally readmitted in the seventeenth century. Scapegoating Jewish people for a countrys problems was still easily accepted by many in the mid-twentieth century. Was the rise of Hitler in Germany inevitable?
On the 27th February 1925 the NSDAP was officially refounded in Munich and the following year Hitler formally established his leadership of the Party.The party was reorganised into regions (Gaue) and a vertical structure was set up that did not detract from Hitlers position of authority. Regional leaders (Gauleiters) were responsible for creating district (Kreis) and local branches (Ort).Associated Nazi organisations were set up to appeal directly to specific interest groups e.g. Hitler Youth, Nazi Teachers Association, Union of Nazi Lawyers.1925-1929
Hitler at the Nuremberg rally of 1927
The SS were set up in 1925 under Himmler as an elite bodyguard sworn to absolute obedience to Hitler.
By 1928 Party membership stood at 108 000, a four fold increase from 1925.
However, the Party failed to make inroads in the cities and in May 1928, it did poorly in the Rei